Sprawl-Busters has been narrating the battle against Wal-Mart in Tarpon Springs, Florida since April 11, 2005. A couple of days ago, local residents told Sprawl-Busters that Wal-Mart was coming back in on October 26th with a revised site plan for the city’s consideration of its 204,000 s.f., Mediterranean-style Supercenter. “The City of Tarpon Springs’ Technical Review Committee (TRC) will consider a revised Site Plan submitted by Wal-Mart for a Supercenter on the Anclote River,” the Friends of the Anclote River wrote. “The Friends and various concerned residents of Tarpon Springs will argue at the meeting that the meeting itself is inappropriate at this time, and that the proposed revised Site Plan cannot be approved by the TRC.” According to the St. Petersburg Times, two nights ago, the city’s Technical Review Committee, after a three hour hearing, voted to approve the plan — with some minor changes. But the Friends were not sitting on their hands. The group filed an appeal with the city’s Board of Adjustment, arguing that the TRC review was not warranted, because the changes Wal-Mart has made in its updated site plan are major in nature, not minor ones. Major changes would trigger further city review and public hearings. All of this back-and-forth comes on top of two years and eight months of bickering over this controversial project. The TRC is a group of city staff — not elected officials. The staff raised a number of minor issues with Wal-Mart’s plan, such as the water metering, the exotic plants that will be destroyed if the store is built — but nothing of major consequence. City staff, for example, insisted that Wal-Mart widen the entrance to its store from 25 feet to 35 feet. According to The Times, Wal-Mart’s lawyer, hearing these largely benign changes, responded, “We’ll do whatever you ask.” As long as the asking amounts to little change.
In June of 2006, local resident Chris Hrabovsky alleged that federal wetlands regulators at the Army Corps of Engineers had worked in lockstep with Wal-Mart to ensure the retailer received necessary permits. Hrabovsky contended that the permits were issued in violation of federal wetlands conservation laws. He sued the city, but lost his appeal in court. The Friends of Anclote have said they will challenge the stormwater management permit. “That’s our main concern,” a spokeswoman for the group has stated. “It’s a river of special significance and state agencies have not taken that to heart.” The citizen’s group has sparred with the developer over the issue of wetland delineation. The group wanted to be allowed to conduct is own mapping of where the wetlands really are on the site, but the developer has refused to allow this survey to be done, relying instead on delineation done by the developer itself. The most pathetic part of this story is that there is absolutely no market need for another Wal-Mart in this area, and impact on the rivershed and the wetlands could be completely avoided. There are no less than 15 Wal-Mart stores, including 5 supercenters, within 21 miles of Tarpon Springs. The Wal-Mart store in Palm Harbor is less than 4 miles away. Let the Mayor of Tarpon Springs hear from you. To reach Mayor Beverly Billiris, call 727-938-3711, or email her at [email protected] Tell the Mayor, “Don’t let Wal-Mart cheat on where the wetlands really are. Your city doesn’t need a Wal-Mart to begin with. People should drive the 4 miles to Palm Harbor and leave the Anclote River alone.” For more history on this project, go to www.friendsoftheancloteriver.com.